British Summertime is here! Apparently it is anyway. Much like the TV schedules, what gets added to your chosen online streaming service slows down because they assume everyone is outside playing tennis or something. So you might not be getting as many big blockbusters or exclusives as you might in the spring, autumn and winter.
However you could argue that summer is more interesting as what they add tends to be more obscure and catalogue titles. I mean it’s great that there is more exposure for Holy Motors but does anyone in the UK even remember what Night of the Creeps was? Well Netflix is here to remind you. Now if one of these savvy suppliers can just stream Charles Band’s entire ’80s back catalogue and Raising Cain I will be very happy…
Holy Motors (2012) – Netflix
One of the most baffling, bizarre and rewarding films from last year is now available online so that more people can learn of its unique and beautiful nature. Leos Carax’s arthouse hit has themes of identity, loss and the nature of employment and where you fit in society. Denis Lavant was cruelly denied any awards love for his role as Oscar (get it?), the permanent inhabitant of a limo who drives around Paris and fulfils several different roles throughout one day so that whatever wheels lie behind life can carry on turning. It either makes sense to you personally or makes no sense at all but it’s a trip worth taking for all of its wondrous and strange beauty.
The Rite (2011) – LOVEFiLM
Mikael Hafstrom’s 2011 possession thriller looks very nice and has one or two arresting images but finds itself paling in comparison to far better films. Anthony Hopkins gives a good performance as a troubled priest but nobody around him really comes to life, leaving a film which is very uneven. There are worse ways to spend two hours but last year’s The Possession was much better.
The Walking Dead: Season 1 (2010) – LOVEFiLM
Perhaps the most divisive show of recent years, some are still in love with this show and some claim it never got over Frank Darabont leaving and jumped the shark in season two. Then again you can’t deny that season three was largely brilliant and got things back on track. The first season is now on LOVEFiLM and if you haven’t seen this yet then this is a great place to start. Darabont’s fingerprints are all over this show and the first season is brilliant and gripping TV. One of the strongest pilot episodes ever as well, but be prepared because things slow way down come the ending due to the behind the scenes turmoil that meant the show struggled to find its identity.
Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) – LOVEFiLM
Released to coincide with the release of The Dark Knight in 2008, this is a series of shorts with interpretations of Batman from several acclaimed anime directors. It ties in very loosely with events between Batman Begins and the second movie and is truthfully more of a curiosity than a piece of entertainment. It’s great to see several different artistic interpretations of Bruce Wayne/Batman in the same way that the multiple different comic versions are compelling. As a whole though it’s somewhat unfulfilling.
Up (2009) – LOVEFiLM and Netflix
Pixar was on a hell of a streak from Ratatouille to Toy Story 3 and then Cars 2 and Brave happened. In the midst of this streak was this lovely film about old age. The story is nuts, with an old man who ties balloons to his house and drifts off on an adventure dragging along a boy scout and finds himself on a bizarre island where he encounters an evil genius and his nefarious plans. It’s the perfect Pixar film balancing laughs, wonder and pathos. Also has some talking dogs which are frankly amazing.
Twin Peaks (1990) – LOVEFiLM
I could talk about the importance of David Lynch’s surreal TV series in popular culture until the end of the year but I’ll just say that Twin Peaks changed TV forever. It broke boundaries of sex and violence and introduced the idea of season long arcs. Without this there would be no X-Files or arguably Buffy. The first season is rich with compelling storytelling and characters that become addictive. The second season goes off the rails a bit but most of it is still brilliant, and now it’s all on LOVEFiLM for even more fans to discover.
Halloween H20 (1998) – Netflix
During the years in which the Scream films revived the slasher genre, producers went back to the well and brought us this Halloween reboot some twenty years after the first. The formula hasn’t really changed but for a great performance by Jamie Lee Curtis as the haunted Laurie Strode. This Halloween is amongst the best of the franchise which had seemingly died with the sixth movie and is incredibly tight and entertaining and features early roles for Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams.
Spawn (1997) – LOVEFiLM
Really only a recommendation as a curiosity rather than a piece of entertainment. Todd Macfarlane and New Line talked this up as an incredibly dark and ground breaking film before it came out and sadly the result was like a TV pilot with a computer being sick all over it and a series of terrible performances. The proposed ‘darker’ and more faithful sequel never came to fruition, probably because Spawn is one of the most derivative comic successes of the last twenty years and people cottoned on to the fact. The animated HBO series did this much better.
Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69) – LOVEFiLM
If you were disappointed by Star Trek Into Darkness after J. J. Abrams’ brilliant reboot in 2009, now the original series is online for you to enjoy. This is Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic creation in its most pure and undiluted form which Abrams’ seemed to get in 2009 before losing his nerve earlier this summer. So many classic moments it’s hard to pick a favourite but part of the fun of revisiting this is seeing which classic stories Abrams etc might mine for further sequels to their reboot.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) – LOVEFiLM
As Sam Raimi’s OZ: The Great and Powerful has just come out on DVD, now is a pretty good time to revisit this classic. What is surprising is how well this fits with Raimi’s film. The 1939 version is colourful and joyous and rightly regarded as a classic. Also for the time period it’s really visually impressive with great set design and costume work. It’s hard to believe you haven’t seen this but if you haven’t then now is your chance. See if you can spot the hanging suicidal munchkin too!
The Neverending Story (1985) – LOVEFiLM
This one seems to pop up on LOVEFiLM every six months or so and here it is again with its lesser sequels - parts two and three. What strikes me about this endlessly rewatchable kids fantasy is that every time I watch it, as I get older, the film seems darker and darker. The death of a beloved horse is still traumatic as is the wolf monster and the concept of a world being consumed by nothing. Apart from Falcor the luck dragon, the practical effects work still stands up. A classic dark fable that no fantasy fan should miss.
Night of the Creeps (1986) – Netflix
In the mid to late ’80s there was a guy called Fred Dekker who showed tons of promise. He made The Monster Squad after Night of the Creeps and then seemingly threw everything away by doing Robocop 3 and never worked again. Night of the Creeps is a slow burn but when it kicks off it truly is tremendous fun as parasite worms invade suburbia. In an alternate universe Fred Dekker is as big as Sam Raimi.
District 13 (2004) – Netflix
The first French parkour action flick has a plot that riffs on Escape from New York but manages to fit in some stunning stunt work and martial arts sequences without heavy use of CGI or wires. You won’t remember this come next week but for an hour and 20 this is an adrenaline fuelled gritty romp and the sequel was even better. Shortly to be remade as Brick Mansions with Paul Walker, how that will turn out is anyone’s guess.
Seed of Chucky (2004) – Netflix
As a reboot of the Childs Play franchise is on the way with Curse of Chucky later this year, now is a good time to look back at what killed the franchise in the first place. Bride of Chucky was a success because it was silly but the people making it took it seriously and gave it a certain weight and as an audience you bought into all the ridiculousness. Now with Seed of Chucky, the idea is even more out there but you get the impression that the makers are all about just making a campy romp and don’t really care about who believes in what, but that the outrageousness will carry it through. Sadly not the case…